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Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Collins says FDA's proposed new cheese rules stink

post by Howard B. Owens in business, chris collins, NY-27

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today is blasting a proposal by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that will significantly hurt the local cheese industry. The FDA is contemplating banning cheese makers from the centuries-old practice of aging cheese on wooden boards. This process is commonplace among artisan cheese makers operating across New York’s 27th Congressional District.

“This is just the latest example of a federal government hell-bent on regulating everything it can get its hands on,” Congressman Collins said. “The process of aging cheese on wood boards is older than the federal government itself. Once again, the bureaucrats in Washington who are totally out of touch with the real world are arbitrarily introducing new rules and regulations that will hurt local economies, cost people their jobs, and stall business growth.”

Approximately 15 to 20 percent of the cheese made by Yancey's Fancy in Pembroke, NY, (Genesee County) is aged on wooden boards. The company recently announced a major expansion aimed at increasing production of the very cheeses aged through the process targeted by the FDA. The company currently employs 120 people.

“The proposal that FDA has made to ban the use of wood for curing cheese will negatively impact our plans to grow the natural side of our specialty cheese business,” said Brian Bailey, VP of Operations for Yancey's Fancy. “My understanding is that the rule was going forward without any discussion with the cheese industry, and apparently without any consideration to the impact that such a ruling would have.

"There is a far greater tonnage of cheese imported into the United States that is cured on wood than what is made in the United States, yet I haven’t heard of any ruling to address that issue either. There is plenty of science that supports wood as a safe material for curing cheese but I’ve seen no evidence to date that science has been considered...Producing safe, quality food is as much our mission and goal as it is FDA’s. Our existence depends on it.”

Congressman Collins is sending a letter to the FDA encouraging them to abandon this proposal immediately. A significant amount of cheese imported from abroad is aged on wood boards and currently not subject to FDA’s scrutiny of this particular aging process. In reacting to the proposal, American cheese makers said the FDA was not acting on sound science or law.

Thursday, June 12, 2014 at 1:45 am

County Legislature recognizes June as Dairy Month

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, business, county legislature, dairy queen

In honor of Dairy Month, the Genesee County Legislature presented Dairy Princess Kayla Wormuth with a proclamation recognizing the contribution dairy makes to the local economy and the nutrition of people. Legislator Shelly Stein, right, presented the resolution. Also participating were dairy ambassadors Becca Slattery and Mary Sweeney, and Georgia Luft, dairy maid.

 

Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 6:30 pm

WNY Pediatric Gastroenterology opens office in Batavia

post by Billie Owens in announcements, business

Press release:

WNY Pediatric Gastroenterology (WNYPG) announces the opening of their Batavia practice focusing on the care of infants, children and adolescents with gastrointestinal, liver and nutritional disorders.

With the escalation of autoimmune disorders in WNY children, including celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease, the physicians and other medical staff at WNYPG want Western New Yorkers to know that they are accepting new patients without long wait times.

The medical practice is located at 166 Washington Ave. Phone is 225-4132. (Web: wnypedgi.com)

They are committed to see patients within 48 hours. Dr. Daniel Gelfond focuses a significant portion of his practice on celiac disease and is a medical advisor to the WNY Gluten Free Diet Support Group.

Gelfond completed his residency at Long Island College Hospital and Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, and completed his fellowship at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where he worked with world renowned, Dr. Alessio Fasano at the Center for Celiac Research.

A nationally recognized physician scientist, Dr. Gelfond conducts clinical investigations studying gastrointestinal disorders in patients with cystic fibrosis. He is board certified in Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, and accredited by the Royal College of Physician Educators. He has contributed to numerous publications, and recently published a textbook titled Pediatric Gastroenterology.

Dr. Humaira Hashmi completed her residency in Pediatrics at Cooper University Hospital in New Jersey, and her fellowship in Pediatric Gastroenterology at Women & Children’s Hospital in Buffalo. Dr. Hashmi enjoys teaching, and has a special interest in managing children and adolescents with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. She also focuses on childhood obesity and helps families educate and manage their children’s nutrition.

Dr. Hashmi is actively involved in local and national clinical studies, is a member of the North American Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, and a member of the Gastroenterology Women’s Coalition. Dr. Hashmi is board certified in Pediatrics and Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, and accredited by the Royal College of Physician Educators, and contributes to numerous publications.

Both physicians are excited to be working together to help children and families throughout Western New York with gastrointestinal and nutritional issues. Dr. Gelfond lives with his wife and three children in East Amherst. Dr. Hashmi also lives in East Amherst with her husband, and their three children.

Friday, June 6, 2014 at 9:11 am

GCEDC board member announces retirement after 31 years of service

post by Howard B. Owens in business, GCEDC

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) announced the retirement of James L. Vincent from the GCEDC’s board of directors at its board meeting on Thursday, June 5, 2014.

Vincent served on the GCEDC board of directors for 31 years, playing an instrumental role on the board since 1983. In addition to being a board member, he also served as the GCEDC’s vice chairman for several years and helped the GCEDC become one of the most progressive economic development agencies in New York State through his deep, comprehensive understanding of the need for sustained economic growth. During his tenure as a member of the board, Vincent helped foster increased economic activity in Genesee County by advocating for new employment opportunities and a high quality of life for residents and their families.

Vincent served as president of L-Brooke Farms, Inc., an 8,000+ acre processing vegetable and grain farm since 1986. He also served as chairman of the New York State Advisory Council on Agriculture and the Genesee County Water Resources Agency, among others.

Vincent is past president of Genesee Memorial Hospital, Genesee Community College Foundation, Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, and Genesee County Farm Bureau, as well as board member of Farm Fresh First, LLC, Pro Fac Cooperative, Inc., and former town supervisor. 

The GCEDC congratulates Vincent in his retirement from service to the GCEDC board and recognizes him as an exceptional leader in economic development and a dedicated citizen worthy of esteem of not only the GCEDC, but throughout Genesee County.

Friday, June 6, 2014 at 9:09 am

GCEDC board approves projects, including one involving sale of Daily News building

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Daily News, business, GCEDC, Oakfield, U.S. Gypsum

Press release:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) approved a final resolution for applications for assistance from 9 Apollo Drive, Inc., and an initial resolution to set a public hearing for United States Gypsum Co. at the June 5, 2014, board meeting. 

United States Gypsum Company Co. is planning to upgrade its paper mill at 2750 Maple Ave. in Oakfield, NY.  The project will include replacing and relocating equipment, stock cleaning and enhanced manila production to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of the facility.

The upgrades will consist of three phases and are expected to commence in 2016. The projected capital investment is approximately $23 million. The investment will retain 98 manufacturing jobs and create 12 new production jobs.

9 Apollo Drive, Inc., is a business that manufactures doors and windows. The company plans to purchase the building located at 2 Apollo Drive in the City of Batavia to accommodate its growth and expansion. 9 Apollo Drive, Inc., will make a capital investment of approximately $750,000.

In 2002, the company was granted a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for the building located at 9 Apollo Drive, Inc., by the GCEDC and pledged to create eight new jobs. According to PARIS reporting submitted to the GCEDC in 2013, the company has created 29 jobs at this location.

“It is very encouraging to see existing businesses in our region invest resources to improve production and operations and, just as important, retain existing jobs and create new jobs,” said Wallace Hinchey, GCEDC board chairman.

Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 8:53 pm

Photos: Le Roy residents pitch in to clean up Main Street

post by Howard B. Owens in business, Le Roy

Le Roy Main Street Revitalization hosted a village clean-up this afternoon with residents, including students, pitching in to pull weeds and pick up garbage.

Above, Carly, Contado and Jack pull weeds from a garden bed along Main Street.

Candy Bower and Jennifer Keys cleaning the brick alleyway off Main Street.

For more information about Le Roy Main Street Revitalization, visit the group's Facebook page.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 9:03 am

Daily News selling Apollo Drive building; buyer asking GCEDC for assistance on business expansion

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Daily News, business, GCEDC

Press release from GCEDC:

The Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) will consider two projects at its June 5, 2014 board meeting.

U.S. Gypsum Company is planning to upgrade its paper mill at 2750 Maple Ave. in Oakfield, NY.  The project will include replacing and relocating equipment, stock cleaning and enhanced manila production to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of the facility. The projected capital investment is approximately $23 million and will ensure employment retention of 98 existing manufacturing jobs and the addition of 12 new production jobs.

9 Apollo Drive is planning to purchase the former Daily News building at 2 Apollo Drive in Batavia. With the purchase, the company anticipates further growth and plans to expand its business and manufacture more doors and windows. The projected capital investment for the project is $750,000.

The GCEDC Board meeting will take place at 4 p.m. and is open to the public. Meetings are held at the Dr. Bruce A. Holm Upstate Med & Tech Park -- 99 MedTech Drive, Batavia, NY, on the 2nd floor, across from Genesee Community College. 

UPDATE: John Johnson, CEO of Johnson Newspapers, says that the Daily News hasn't sold its building and has no plans to move.

Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 2:30 pm

After fish kill in Chapin Lagoon, O-AT-KA Milk notified by DEC to improve spill prevention

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, environment, O-AT-KA Milk Products

O-AT-KA Milk Products was issued a notice of violation by the DEC on April 24 for chemicals and waste materials being spilled into a lagoon south of Ellicott Street.

The company is complying with all DEC demands and requirements for dealing with spills from its dairy processing plant at the corner of Cedar and Ellicott streets, said David Crisp, director of business development for O-AT-KA.

The spills were brought to the attention of the DEC by Attica resident John Volpe (pictured above), a Native American well known locally for his environmental work.

Volpe said he's concerned about the health and well being of the fish, turtles, frogs and other wildlife in the lagoon, which is part of a 110-acre wildlife refuge owned by Chapin Manufacturing. The creatures, Volpe said, are part of the chain of life.

"This is how we look at our own life," Volpe said. "These are our teachers. All of our relations means just that. They’re all of our relations. You don’t leave out a worm or an eagle or whatever. We’re supposed to watch it and we’re supposed to protect it. That’s one of our jobs as among the people who walk this earth. It should be everybody’s job."

Volpe shared documents he said show serious environmental damage to the lagoon, including photos of more than 100 dead fish and dissection photos taken of dead animals -- such as turtles, frogs and fish -- showing medical issues (Volpe emphasized several times that he and his helpers never killed any animals, but merely took for samples and evidence animals they found dead).

The DEC letter accuses O-AT-KA of violating its SPDES (State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit and three sections of environmental law.

The letter specifically accuses O-AT-KA of causing a drop in water quality standards for pH, solids and water color from spills on at least six separate occasions. The spills, according to the DEC, contained milk and/or cleaning solutions.

The letter also specifically cites a fish kill of various species April 15.

O-AT-KA was accused of discharging water that causes or contributes to conditions in violation of state code; discharging industrial waste in violation of state code; and discharging pollutants at a frequency or volume in excess of permitted standards.

The company was given until May 7 a turn over a document called "Best Management Practices" as well as a summary of response actions, investigations and corrective measures taken for each reported spill since August 2013. 

By yesterday, O-AT-KA was required to complete a facility review and submit a corrective action plan designed to prevent or minimize potential damage from future spills.

The DEC also required O-AT-KA to install a continuous recording pH meter.

Crisp said O-AT-KA has been fully compliant with the DEC's requirements, an assertion confirmed by Linda Vera, spokeswoman for the DEC in WNY. 

"O-AT-KA has taken a number of actions to mitigate and prevent additional discharges," Vera said.

Crisp said a DEC official was on hand one day recently when an alarm sounded from the new system indicating there was an increase in pH in the outflow line to the discharge pipe and the officials saw firsthand that plant workers responded immediately to correct the problem.

"It really comes down to how dedicated O-AT-KA is to the highest level of environmental protection," Crisp said. "That's why we're working with the DEC to assure O-AT-KA is in compliance with the SPDES permit."

There were two spills of milk, Vera said. One in August and another in October. She said steps were taken to prevent future spills and there have been no similar discharges since October.

"The remaining incidents were related to cleaning solution discharges," Vera said. "Action was taken after each incident to determine the source, and O-AT-KA added monitoring equipment and changed practices to mitigate the issue. During DEC's early May inspection, the probable source was identified. A deteriorated flooring in one of production areas allowed cleaning/disinfection solution to seep into a deteriorated pipe beneath floor. O-AT-KA is taking necessary actions to repair piping and floor."

It's still possible O-AT-KA could be fined for the spills, but the DEC has made no determination yet on further enforcement actions, Vera said.

One source we spoke to for this story suggested we look at the notice of violation delivered to O-AT-KA in context of how many DEC violation notices are handed out locally in a year, suggesting that there's nothing remarkable about a company getting a letter of violation.

According to the DEC's database of spills, there have been 76 incidents reported in the past 12 months in Genesee County. Eight of those have been tied to O-AT-KA, which more than any other source in the county. Only three of those spills -- where the size of the spill is known -- involve 100 gallons or more, and two of those involve O-AT-KA. Those are a spill of 125 gallons of milk product in August 2013 and 3,000 gallons of sodium hydroxide in January.

There were 48 incidents countywide reported in the prior 12 months, none involving O-AT-KA.

The series of spills has been a concern to Chapin, CEO Jim Campbell said, and company officials have met several times with O-AT-KA officials to review the measures taken to prevent future problems.

The 110-acre preserve includes nature trails available to employees and the area is teaming with wildlife, Campbell said. Andris Chapin, a family owner and chairman of the board, is keenly aware of environment issues, Campbell said, and once a year takes interested employees on a nature trail walk through the preserve. 

The company also has an environmental manager. He is Mark Volpe, who is also the plant manager and is John Volpe's brother.

Campbell said Chapin is confident O-AT-KA is responding appropriately. It's his understanding, he said, that O-AT-KA has spent more than $100,000 on preventative measures. He said O-AT-KA has recently brought in new executives with a good deal of technical experience in environmental issues.

"They've done a great job and have a great solution in place," Campbell said.

John and Mark Volpe started monitoring and measuring the Chapin's 110-acre habitat in 2008, acquiring and maintaining detailed records on the species and quality of life in the preserve.

It was through that process that John Volpe became increasingly concerned about spills from the O-AT-KA plant, which he said go back further than the August 2013 date covered by the DEC letter.

As he saw more and more environmental damage to the lagoon, he began raising concerns to the DEC, to the point, he believes, that some officials at the DEC started trying to avoid his phone calls.

In his workshop at his home in Attica, Volpe showed dozens of presentation boards displaying charts and tables documenting discharge dates, water temperatures, pH readings and photos of dissected animals and dead fish.

When Volpe found dead fish, he and his helpers photographed where each fish was found, collected them, brought them back to Attica, weighed and identified the species of each fish and photographed each one individually.

The dead fish included sunfish, bullhead and bass.

The DEC was slow to act on contamination issues at the lagoon, contends Volpe.

"Why didn’t the DEC do this and cite them sooner so maybe these fish would still be alive?" Volpe said. "This is not the first fish kill. We’ve had other fish kills."

Volpe's wife caught in a net one bass near death. It was blind, had lost all its slime and was emaciated. The Volpes have nursed it back to health. It's eating again and its eyes have cleared of the haze that covered the pupils. The fish has become more active in its tank.

The blindness and loss of slime is a result of a high pH in the water as well as sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide reaching the lagoon.

Volpe is also concerned about the water temperature in the lagoon, which he said was above 60 degrees in March (he takes the water temperature every day) and the turtles and frogs need the water below at least 50 degrees to hibernate.

There is also evidence of frogs "toxing out," Volpe said. The toxins in the water cause their legs to shoot straight out, become rigid and they can't jump. Eventually, they die.

Volpe was arrested in February and accused of illegal possession of protected turtles and birds of prey. 

The DEC had known for years and years about Volpe's conservation efforts involving wildlife, his friend and supporter Mike Bastine said during a meeting at Volpe's house. It was only after Volpe started making waves about O-AT-KA that the DEC decided to come down hard on Volpe.

"If you look at the implications from the spills that he has documented, that has a much greater impact on the environment than the violations they subjected him to," Bastine said. "Is the issue really about protecting the environment and the animals and the life around us? No, not really.

"They think if they can shut that part of his work down, he's going to go away and say, 'they beat me,' that he'll have to throw in the towel because he can't defend himself. They're hounding us saying we need a permit to hold a feather or care for turtles, but that's our responsibility and that's our custom. It's our job. It's our duty to step in an assist."

In her e-mail response to a series of questions, Vera did not respond to the accusation that Volpe has been targeted for enforcement because of his O-TA-KA complaints.

She said the DEC had been monitoring O-AT-KA independently of Volpe, but found his work helpful. 

"DEC's actions have been ongoing, and are not dependent on Mr. Volpe's findings," Vera said. "However, some of the discharges discovered by Mr. Volpe, have provided assistance in mitigating the discharges and investigating potential sources."

Volpe said he's also concerned because the lagoon sits over the Batavia's aquifer. All of the city's water is pumped from wells in the area. He thinks the contaminants could seep into the aquifer.

City Manager Jason Molino said that really isn't a concern. Even if any contaminants reached the aquifer, the city treats all of its water before it's distributed.

Molino's confident, he said, the DEC has things under control.

"We've spoken with O-AT-KA and the DEC," Molino said. "I think the DEC is aware of the situation and has responded to it and are in constant communication with O-AT-KA. Otherwise, it's outside our jurisdiction."

This photo is from Genesee County's GIS map. The photographs that comprise the map were taken in April 2013. The Chapin Lagoon is in the lower left. O-AT-KA's plant is in the upper right. There is a dirt road that Hanson Aggregates uses running from Ellicott Street. Beside it is a drainage ditch, which apparently is how runoff from O-AT-KA reaches the lagoon. We have no confirmation of what the milky white substance is in the lagoon, but there is no spill around that time period reported in the DEC database.

Sign by drainage pipe that runs under Ellicott Street to a stream that runs to the Chapin Lagoon.

One of the no trespassing signs marking the property line of Chapin's 110-acre wildlife refuge.

Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 8:12 am

Frost Ridge, complying with court order, announces change of venue for June 7 show

post by Howard B. Owens in business, entertainment, Frost Ridge Campground, Le Roy, music

Press release:

Jam At The Ridge Presents: Josh Thompson In Concert - Performance Location Change

As you may know, a preliminary injunction has been issued against amplified outdoor concerts at Frost Ridge at this time. To fully comply with the court order and meet our commitment to our guests, the Josh Thompson Concert scheduled for June 7th, 2014 at 5 p.m. (gates open at 4 p.m.) is being moved to:

    J W Jones Hall

    366 Leicester Road
    Caledonia, NY 14423

    Maps:  Google   Bing

The firefighters of Caledonia have been very gracious to provide this space and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts. This location is only 14 minutes from camp and is easy to find. If you have any trouble, please come to camp and get a map.

Ticket-holders, please go directly to the venue at the address above.

Campers, please register at the campground and take the FREE shuttle to the venue.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us keep the music alive at The Ridge.

ADDITIONALLY: The attorneys involved in the two lawsuits over Frost Ridge met in conference Friday in the chambers of Judge Robert C. Noonan. The meeting was primarily to go over the calendar of motions and appearances in the case, but attorney Karl Essler was introduced as legal counsel for the Zoning Board of Appeals. Somehow, the ZBA, which has consistently found that Frost Ridge is a legal nonconforming use within the Town of Le Roy's zoning laws, was not notified it was a party to one of the lawsuits. The ZBA was not represented at a hearing that proceeded Noonan's ruling on the current injunction against amplified music and alcohol service at Frost Ridge. David Roach, attorney for Frost Ridge, said Essler will be permitted to file a written argument in the case without opposition from the plantiff's counsel. It's unclear how the additional information might or might not lead to a modification of Noonan's ruling. No date was announced for the next court proceeding.

Friday, May 30, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Houseknecht brothers buy back family's former vending company business

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Crickler Vending

The Houseknechts are back in the vending business.  

John and Tom, who sold Loose Ends in 2008, after the family sold its Pepsi bottling company, has re-acquired their former business.

The new name is Crickler Vending. Crickler after the former Pepsi-Cola Batavia Bottling Corp., which was founded in 1890 as Crickler's.

"It looked like a good business opportunity and it's a business we're familiar with operating," Tom Houseknecht said.

The company has distribution centers in Rochester, Buffalo and Horseheads. Houseknecht said they consider their market areas Rochester, Buffalo and Elmira.

There are no plans to operate a distribution center Genesee County at this time, Houseknecht said.

The brothers re-acquired the business May 17 and immediately started re-branding their delivery trucks.

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